Today I want to break away from talking about myself and my own book, to introduce you to the talented Bianca M. Schwarz. Bianca has become a very dear friend to me in the last several months, as together we’ve navigated the waters of launching our first books. Bianca is the author of A Thing of Beauty, which I reviewed here on my website a few months ago. It’s a wonderful historical fiction/romance/thriller/mystery novel (yes–it has everything!) that kept my attention from the first page.
So without further ado, please allow me to introduce my dear friend and talented writer, Bianca M. Schwarz.
Hi Bianca! First tell us a little about yourself. I’ve read that you’re originally from Europe, and now live in Los Angeles. What brought you stateside?
I am in fact German but left there when I was nineteen to go to the UK. I lived in London for the following ten years and went to college there.
I actually came to LA twice. The first time for the film industry, I had big dreams of becoming a director. I never made it that far but I made a few shorts and worked in the industry as a script supervisor. By then I was married and we stayed for six years but then the work permits ran out and we had to go back to England.
The second time we came because I had won a green card in the diversity visa lottery. I had just given birth to my son, but LA was still the most likely place for me to achieve my dreams and for my husband to make a comfortable living for us, so we packed up and moved Continents once again.
Tell me about your writing. Do you have a specific writing time set aside, and where do you do your writing?
Oh gosh, I wish I did. I have to fight for every half hour stretch of uninterrupted time. And although I have a desk in a dark corner of the living room, I don’t like it because I can’t look out a window. I’m with Virginia Wolf on that one, one needs a room with a view. I have a Macbook Air and that travels with me wherever I go and I carve out time whenever I can.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day starts at 6:45 with me checking social media and email. I have two writers groups that are very important for support and promotion. Then I have to get my kid off to school for 8am and after that I come home and have breakfast. That’s when I catch up on what’s going on in the chat rooms on Twitter and Facebook.
On Monday, Wednesday and Sunday I go off to work. I make jewelry for a living and have a tiny studio in my friends store. But on any other day I hope like hell that the Hubby does not get up till later and sit down to write for as long as the peace and quiet lasts. Once he is up I go for a walk so I can at least hear myself think.
Then at 3 I have to pick up the boy and later on in the afternoon I have to descend into what I like to call Homework Hell. When I snatch little bits of time here and there in the late afternoon and evening, I use them to do things like answering these questions. At around midnight I fall into bed exhausted and attempt to read for a bit.
I also read throughout the day when it’s to noisy to write but ever since A THING OF BEAUTY was published, I have not nearly had enough time to read. Reading for me is akin to feeding the well and crucial to writing.
Let’s talk about A Thing of Beauty. First I’d like to know about the evolution of this novel from writing to publishing. Can you tell me a bit about the process you took and how you found your publisher?
I started writing A Thing of Beauty purely to amuse myself and to get myself back into writing after penning nothing more exiting then a diary for 7 years. I needed to get my writing mojo back and decided to start with a short story that I would want to read for fun. Well, that short story refused to be finished and turned into a novella and then a novel. About half way through I realized that this was the best thing I had ever written and started to think about publishing it.
Where did the idea for A Thing of Beauty come from?
Well, you could call it a whim. Or maybe it was more then that, maybe it was some deep need to have fun again. I dreamed up these characters and once they formed and took up residence in my head, they took over the story and dragged me along. All I had to do was listen and write it down. Easier said than done of course, and between the listening to the story in my head and me typing it into the computer is where the real writing happened.
Do you have a favorite scene from A Thing of Beauty?
I have several but I think the tea scene might be a good fit here.
Afternoon tea was all that Eliza had ever imagined that it might be. The silver teapot had a candle beneath it so that the tea never cooled and it pivoted on hinges so that one did not have to pick up the heavy pot in order to pour tea into delicate china cups. The food was laid out on a three-tiered silver platter with an ornate handle on top and ranged from tiny, crustless cucumber sandwiches, to warm scones with clotted cream, to dainty little custard tarts that concealed a juicy plum in their center.
The food that Eliza had been served in her room had been no less delicious, but the luxury of eating a meal in the afternoon when she had been served lunch and would no doubt be eating dinner, turned it into an indulgence.
Henry fell into the role of the visiting gentleman, keeping up a stream of inane small talk about the weather and what flowers one might still find at this time of year. Eliza played the prim little society miss, doing her best to pour tea for Sir Henry just as it had been described in one of the novels he had lent her. It was easy to imagine herself a lady in Henry’s exquisite drawing room, easier still to enjoy his gentle teasing.
“That is one splendid cup of tea, my dear.”
Eliza thanked him with a little nod of her head. “Can I interest you in a cucumber sandwich? They are delicious.”
Henry surveyed the food tray carefully before he turned back to Eliza. “I shall indulge my sweet tooth. Those custard tarts look rather good.”
Considering the size of the tiny tartlets, Eliza placed three of them on a dainty blue and white china plate that matched their tea cups and put a small silver desert fork on the plate and a napkin under it before she presented it proudly to Henry.
Henry took the plate and spread the napkin over his knee, but discreetly placed the fork back onto the tray. He leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, “Tarts are considered finger food, no fork required.” Then he winked at her and bit into one of his treats.
Eliza blushed at the mistake but smiled at his antics and helped herself to another cucumber sandwich. A thought occurred to her. “Sir Henry, if you could, who, out of all the people we read about, would you like to have to tea?”
Henry didn’t even hesitate. “Rob Roy! He seems an interesting fellow.”
She laughed. “You might have a difficult time getting him to take you up on your invitation; you are English after all!”
He leaned his head to the side for a moment considering, then nodded.
“Good point! Who would you want to ask to tea? Mr. Darcy?”
Eliza shook her head in dismay. “Too broody, he would scare me.”
“Mr. Bingley then?”
She shook her head again but a tiny smile played around her lips. “Too fickle!”
Henry raised an eyebrow and tapped his lip, trying to think. “Dr. Frankenstein?”
Eliza made a big show of swallowing hard but couldn’t quite stop the smile from broadening on her face. “I’m not sure he would be fit company for tea. He seems a little unhinged.”
Henry huffed, feigning impatience with the game. “Don’t tell me you want to have William Collins for tea?”
Eliza laughed out loud and crossed her eyes at him, which made him laugh. “Well, who then?”
She smiled and spread her hands out to the side, a little surprised Henry had not guessed. “Colonel Brandon, of course.”
“Ah, the sensible choice.”
It was Eliza’s turn to huff a little. “Sensible maybe, but he is trustworthy and steadfast, a good friend to all around him.” Eliza gave a triumphant nod, believing the subject closed and helped herself to a scone.
Henry was surprised by her choice but had to admit that he liked it. Henry too, would have picked the Colonel as the best man out of all the characters they had encountered over the past weeks. Eliza may have been young, but growing up the way she had, obviously had given her a unique perspective on life—and on men.
Do you have any funny stories about the writing or publishing of this novel and, if so, will you share it?
Well, when I realized that I liked my own writing well enough in this book to publish it, I asked friends if they knew anybody who might be able to help.Turns out my friend Dayna’s friend Megan is a freelanced editor and she introduced me to her.
I had thought self-publishing would be the best option for me but after talking to Megan for an hour I decided that I did not have the money for editing and the promotion involved would be almost impossible for me to do all by myself so I took her advice and signed up for a local writers conference.
At that conference you could sign up for meetings with agents and editors and one lone Indi publisher, Jessica Gadsden from Penner Publishing.
On Friday I had a meeting with an editor who liked the story and took my pages. On Saturday I had a meeting with an agent who liked it, took pages and invited me to come to lunch with her. And,finally, on Sunday I had a meeting with Jessica Gadsden, who liked the story and took pages.
I thought I had done rather well for my first time presenting myself and A Thing of Beauty and figured I would just finish the last chapter of the book and start editing and go looking in ernest for an agent in three or four months time once the whole manuscript was fit to be shown to anybody.
But then on Sunday night just after 12 midnight, Jessica Gadsden emailed me, asking when she could see the whole manuscript.
To cut a long story short, I scrambled like hell to get the book finished, virtually ignoring my family for two month and sent the finished, edited and prof-read manuscript to Jessica on January 7th. It took her a month to decide but on February 6th, the day I was to celebrate my 50th Birthday with my friends, she called and offered me a contract for publication.
So I guess I can claim that the first person I ever sent A Thing Of Beauty to, bought it.
Eliza and Henry are familiar names paired together. Is there a story there?
I wanted the names to be familiar and safe so that I would be able to push the reader more with the plot. Of course they allude to another Henry who takes another Eliza into his home and educates her whilst falling in love with her, but that is where the similarities end.
In fact, Henry was named after Henry Fielding and the naming of Eliza kind of just happened one day.
Who inspires you as a writer? Do you have a favorite author?
This particular book was inspired by the many wonderful books Georgette Heyer has written and it is in a way a homage to her.
Favorite author, that’s a tough one. It varies with my mood but I have some that I always come back too. George Elliot, Jane Austen and Henry Fielding are permanent residents on my bookshelf. A few still living authors I admire are Lucinda Brant, Tessa Dare, Natasha Blackthorne and Grace Borrowes. I also really enjoy Ella James’s (not to be confused with EL James) and CD Reis’s work.
What’s next on the agenda? Are you working on anything currently?
Indeed, I am halfway through the next Sir Henry Mystery and have the third one all planed out, as much as I plan. There will also be two novellas—eventually.
Anything you want to add?
Ha, you mean you are not sick of me yet?
In that case, may I suggest reading my book-;)
Ah! And there’s my cue! 🙂 Bianca’s book is available in paperback and e-book formats through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and directly through Penner Publishing. To learn more about Bianca M. Schwarz, visit her website.
Also, it just occurred to me! Bianca is currently raffling off a copy of her novel through Goodreads! Be sure to take a moment to enter! You won’t be sorry!